By Molly Jane Kremer. Social media and the instantaneous delivery of information are things many of us have gotten so used to that we take them completely for granted. The average person checks their smartphone from 110 to 150 times a day. Some of us even use it as our alarm clock, making it literally the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. And there’s nothing quite like taking those things we depend on everyday and twisting them into a visceral, affective horror story. As far as I know, James Tynion’s and Eryk Donovan’s Memetic is the first effort at utilizing social media and smartphone-driven communication for horror – and is unsettlingly, creeptastically successful.
As a comics publisher, BOOM Studios has been making great strides in upping the amount of quality content within the past few years. Their kids’ line KABOOM features some of the best-selling all-ages comics in publication right now (Adventure Time, anyone?) and of late, they’ve been drastically expanding their creator-owned content. Tynion’s other creator-owned BOOM series, The Woods, has already released a few issues to much acclaim, and was a first glimpse that the writer had talents waiting far beyond DC Comics’ Bat-verse.
The Woods has already displayed Tynion’s gift for writing believable and sympathetic teen characters, and Memetic confirms it. Their dialogue is snappy and fun, their relationships complicated but adorable. (Except for their maddening use of “u” and “ur” instead of “you” and “your” in their texting – maybe they deserve this looming apocalypse after all…) The adults are portrayed equally well, and the whole cast of the comic is refreshingly diverse. There’s also a great, wonderfully palpable sense of growing tension and alarm throughout the entire issue, even though most everyone in the book is enjoying the hell out of the “Good Times Sloth”. (Well, until they’re… not.)
The “Good Times Sloth” is a meme that appears on the internet one morning, on reddit to be exact. (Almost makes sense that the meme to end the world would spawn from reddit.) Everyone who sees it is given a happy, tingling feeling, except for color-blind college student Aaron Sumner and former military officer Marcus Shaw, who suffers from macular degeneration. The meme spreads like digital wildfire, as you’d assume something with that kind of effect would, with hundreds of millions of views all over the world. But then twelve hours after viewing it, the “Good Times Sloth” (and what a perfect name that is) causes whoever has seen it to turn into a brain-dead, bleeding-from-the-eyes, rage-zombie. (Even the president, in one especially chilling sequence.)
Eryk Donovan is a relative newcomer to comics, and this is an impressive debut. The kids all have unique looks, and the effort put into their hairstyles and fashion is apparent. He already has a great grasp of storytelling, and while his style is on the cartoony side, he has no problems going from the normalcies of modern life to the rampant horror that erupts halfway through the issue. Focus on the eyes is a prominent visual motif in this comic, and in these characters’ eyes, Donovan eloquently articulates their sadness, euphoria, concern, and ultimately, their batshit-insanity.
Tynion has obviously done his homework on memetics, and uses this evolutionary imperative we have of spreading information (helpful or otherwise) to really establish the possibility of, as Marcus calls it, “memetic warfare”. Tynion has emphasized how deeply linked we are as humans in 2014, and how deeply unsettling those ramifications can be. By the end of the issue, Memetic is a picture of overwhelming end-of-the-world despair, but there are still two more oversized issues to go, and so much more desolation to see. Tynion and Donovan have taken the technological backbones of modern society and twisted them into the stuff of nightmares, leaving this reader hungry for more.
Written by James Tynion IV.
Art by Eryk Donovan.
Colors by Adam Guzowski.
9.5 out of 10